The Long Road: My Journey to the Eucharist

“We’re planning to meet every 3 weeks to discuss the book,” she said. “Would you like to join us?” I glanced at the book in my hands before looking up and smiling. “I’d love to!”

What was I doing?! I’d just met this woman, and my schedule was beyond full. But those details didn’t matter. For reasons I could not explain, I felt like a schoolgirl invited into the club she’d always wanted to join—even though I hadn’t known the club existed. In no time these meetings became a high point of my week. Any stress they brought to my schedule was far surpassed by the peace and life they poured into my soul. And after several months I finally came to understand that my new book club was actually a Bible Study. It would take even longer, though, for me to discover this wasn’t the first time Jesus had humbled and hidden Himself simply to be with me.


“You’re not paying attention. Sit down and wait here.” My mother’s words were stern, and I sat down quickly, looking away to hide my tears. We were at Mass and had just stood up; I was ready to walk down the aisle and receive the Eucharist. I remember nothing of the Mass when I made my First Holy Communion, but this random Sunday church service is etched in my memory. At nine years old, the Eucharist was my favorite part of Mass. I’m sorry to say, though, it had nothing to do with Jesus. Rather, it was because I could get up and walk around. Because kneeling after Communion was when I checked out the shoes of each person who walked down the aisle. And because it indicated Mass would soon be over. I would soon find myself in the backseat of my mom’s car, hearing the words I hoped to hear each Sunday morning: ”Jen, you were very good at Mass today.”

But on that Sunday, I knew those words would not come.


“I don’t agree with everything the Catholic Church says.” The light turned green, and I watched the cars around us slowly move forward as my friend listed her grievances. I was sixteen. I wanted to respond. I wanted to fit in. But I slowly realized I didn’t know enough about my faith to say much at all. So I replied with the first and only statement that came to mind, “Me either. I don’t believe the Eucharist is actually Jesus.” And in speaking those words, I threw down a sort of declaration that informed my faith for years to come.

One year later I moved out of my parents’ home and into my college dorm. Sunday mornings came and went without anyone telling me to go to church. And since I’d turned Mass into a fashion show with a snack, I simply stopped going.


Sitting in traffic, late for work, I turned down the radio and tried to make sense of what just happened. I was confused, but intrigued; filled with wonder, and wanting. Somehow, in only a few minutes, the radio station I’d stumbled upon several weeks earlier had once again brought peace to the precariously balanced chaos that was my life, and it was through the words of an unknown pastor from an unknown church.

Something was happening to me… or rather, in me. For years my faith life, if you could call it that, had been intermittent, unintentional, and self-serving. But sitting in my car that morning everything changed. Prompted by a yearning I could not explain and did not understand, I picked up my phone. A quick Internet search led me to the pastor whose voice I’d just heard, and at thirty-nine years old, I took ownership of my faith for the first time ever.


Our book club Bible Study consisted of several women—some Catholic, some not. Mostly strangers, we slowly learned about one another as we learned about Jesus. At one particular meeting our conversation drifted away from the book we were reading as one woman tried putting into words what she loved most about her Catholic faith and why she’d never leave it. In that moment another woman–one who was not even Catholic–chimed in with words that echo louder today than when she spoke them, “It’s because of the Eucharist!”


The flickering candle cast shadows across the blank page of my prayer journal. Though no one would read my words, I was embarrassed to put my thoughts on paper. Seven years had passed since the day Jesus met me during my morning commute, and I’d spent countless hours learning about Him and my Catholic faith. I met Jesus in quiet prayer daily and never missed Sunday Mass. I read Scripture and did Bible studies. I’d even been on silent retreats and spent time in the Adoration Chapel each week. And these activities were not just tasks; they were an integral part of my life. They’d brought me from not knowing a personal relationship with Jesus was possible to the point where I know I never want to do life without Him by my side again.

But despite all of that, one thing still gave me pause. For years I’d not thought of it. Then I was embarrassed to admit it. And of late, I wanted to change it. So I set my pen to the page and began to write…

“Jesus, can You help me believe You are really present in the Eucharist?”

Almost immediately I sensed His quiet response: “Yes. But in the meantime, live like you already do.”


I glanced at the clock and, making a last minute decision, turned down the street leading to the church. I wasn’t sure exactly what God was challenging me to, but of a few things I was certain:

If I believed the One who created the entire world was inside the tabernacle of each Catholic church, I wouldn’t drive by without making the sign of the cross in acknowledgement.

If I believed the One responsible for the peace, joy, and healing I’ve experienced the last few years was present in the Eucharist, I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to receive Him in daily Mass.

And if I believed the One who died to spend eternity with me was actually present in the Adoration Chapel three minutes from my house, I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to see Him–even if it was for only five minutes on my way home from work.

The faint scent of a burning candle and a familiar sense of peace enveloped me as I stepped inside the small chapel. Walking quietly past an elderly lady in the last row, I went to the very front of the otherwise empty Adoration Chapel. Kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, I took a slow, deep breath and felt both my body and mind settle. And after only a few minutes, I stood to leave—silently questioning whether this short visit could possibly make any difference. Just before exiting the chapel I made eye contact with the woman in the last row. Giving her a barely perceptible nod, I started to look away, but before I could she raised her head, held my gaze intently, and broke every unwritten rule of Adoration Chapel etiquette as she spoke in a clear voice, “Thank you for coming.”

As her words washed over me, time and my heart stood still, and in that moment I knew. I knew the way only one who knows can know: Her words were His.


The clinic door closed behind me as I walked down the hall. I don't know how I spent so many years working a mere two minute walk from our hospital chapel—a chapel where daily Mass is celebrated and where Jesus sits in an unmarked tabernacle—all the while completely unaware of its existence. But the truth is, ten years ago this knowledge would have made no difference in my life. Today, though, it does, and I’m forever grateful to the patient who told me about it. Now, not a day passes that I don’t step away from the noise of the clinic to sit with Jesus, even if it’s for only five minutes.

I’d be lying if I said my heart shifted overnight. But each time I followed Jesus' direction, choosing to act as if I already believed He was present in the Eucharist, my belief was slowly solidified. I can’t explain why this piece of our faith was so hard for me to accept, especially when I easily embraced other “impossible” elements that I could not explain. Even when my faith life was a mere afterthought, I never doubted Jesus was born to a virgin or that He rose on the third day. But for some reason Jesus’ own words regarding His Presence in the Eucharist were difficult for me to accept.

I’ve read that belief in the Eucharist is a gift of grace. But I suppose my long and winding journey to believing confirms grace can do nothing when your heart is not open to receive it.


I lifted the gold key from the storage box and entered the empty chapel. Smiling shyly, I approached the tabernacle. Seeing the Adoration Chapel empty now fills me with conflicting emotions: I’m selfishly grateful for time alone with Jesus. And I’ve such sorrow that the One who lives, loves, and died for us has been left alone, once again.

Genuflecting, I opened the tabernacle doors and sat on the floor. Looking up at Jesus, I reflected on the long road I traveled to get here and was overcome with humility and gratitude.

“Jesus,” I whispered silently as tears filled my eyes. “Thank You. Thank You for waiting on me.”

Deep in my heart I heard His tender, loving voice, and my tears overflowed as He responded, “Jen. I wasn’t waiting on you. I was waiting for you.”

Then Jacob woke from sleep and said, “Truly, the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”
Genesis 28:16

Praying on this Holy Thursday, the very day we commemorate Jesus' institution of the Holy Eucharist, that God breathes life into these words. 


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  1. Such beautiful words to describe the invitation to Christ. I love Mom’s words of “You’re not paying attention…”. I wish these four words were written across the entry way to every church and place of prayer.
    Pay attention. Work to stay awake! If there is any time I do not feel closely connected to God, I am simply not paying attention. AMDG


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